Bangkok: We Came, We Saw, and We Were Conquered

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Sam Giving a Lecture on the Grand Palace
Layla fanning herself with the closest leaf available.
Layla fanning herself with the closest leaf available.

 

Isa and Sebi, lounging in 100 degree heat.
Isa and Sebi, lounging in 100 degree heat.

Bangkok is an amazing city and reveals a new sight, a new idea, a new experience around every corner.  We were so impressed by the majesty of the Grand Palace and the sheer opulence of the gold leaf and enlay throughout this 60 acre site along the Chao Phraya River.  Combined with the mass of humanity seeing the temples and shrines at the same time was almost overwhelming for our group.

Our guide, Sam, picked us up on time and ready to depart.  We left at about 8:30 AM and drove through traffic that makes any U.S. traffic jam look like a lazy summer drive in the country.  Cars flew around our van, people cut in front, around the side, and nearly sent us flying numerous time.  The white lines identifying the “lanes” were mere suggestions to drivers as car after car, motorcycle after motorcycle bobbed and weaved through the streets.

The temple was certainly worth the visit and we learned a lot about the foundations of the monarchy.  Really words cannot do this experience much justice…check out some of these photos….more will come as soon as we have an internet connection that resembles dial-up.

Be well and I will write again tomorrow.

Arrived in Bangkok!

Bangkok Arrival on the Tarmac!
Bangkok Arrival on the Tarmac!

After twenty hours of flying and three plane changes, we arrived in Bangkok at 11:15 PM a little tired but ready to go.  Our day was relatively uneventful except for the panic-cry “I lost my passport, I lost my passport” by a few of our group.  Of course nothing was lost and everything geenrally flowed from place to place.

I’d like to say that we had some kind of profound experience….maybe the most profound thing was buying food in Tokyo.  From Green Tea Kit Kat candy to Pocari Sweat drinks out of vending machines (yes, they taste a lot like sweet) our experience was muted.

We landed in Bangkok in the rain and made it pretty quickly out of the airport and to the hotel, the Mariya Boutique Residence….the hotel is a little funky, and many had trouble figuring out how to turn on the lights…now we are all in bed, ready for our morning jaunt into the city and a visit to the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Palace, and the Old City of Bangkok.

Until tomorrow, be safe and be well Albuquerque!

Flying to Asia!

Japser! GlobalChallenge 6 GlobalChallenge 7 GlobalChallenge 11 GlobalChallenge 12Jordan asks....huh?Layla ready for flight!

We made it!  At least we made it THIS far.  Here we are in LAX for an extended period of time waiting, patiently, for the flight to Bangkok.  The airport is crowded, noisy, and I saw Brent Spiner, Data, on Star Trek the Next Generation, in the waiting area.

The students are in various stages of sleep….that 4:45 AM meeting in Albuquerque was ROUGH.

Stay close for more information, details, and photos of the experience of a lifetime….or at least an experience for today….

Making Lists

Going on a trip requires some planning.  Going on a trip with students requires more planning.  Going on a trip with students across the globe requires a ridiculous amount of planning.  The thing is, I have lists that refer to lists right now.  I always wonder, am I making too many lists?  Is there a way out of this crazy trap?

Today I made, what I thought was, my final list.  It has about ten bullet points…and at the end of the list I put the things I forgot to put on the list….and so I created another list that included all of the things I thought of….until I remembered something else.  So I decided, I’ll make a couple of different lists for different types of items: a list for *group* gear; a list for personal gear; a list of tech I need; a list of clothing…..then, this list mania made me kind of nuts.

Let’s face it, lists are great as long as they are functional and help you complete a task…..these lists were doing NOTHING of the sort….my lists were lists of things to remember….and, strangely enough sparked my memory of things I had forgotten.

OK, so what did I do about planning and making lists?  I stopped.  I have a list from a great web site: http://www.onebag.com/checklist.html.  This site tells it all…it’s a site within a site…including lots of useful information.

I grabbed information and moved on….hopefully, at the end of it all, I will have taken exactly what I needed.  Somehow, I’m not so sure.

6 Days and Counting

A monument to the dead...a message for the living.
A monument to the dead…a message for the living.

The day of departure draws near and the students in school are eager to fly across the ocean to Asia.  Our trip preparations are almost at an end as we make final decisions and make small changes to what we are carrying, thinking, doing in preparation.

I spoke with Jasper today who is trying to get over a cold and is focused on completing his finals.  When asked, “Are you ready?” he said, “I will be on Wednesday.”  His comment definitely summarized what most of us are feeling….get what we need to get done so that we can get done what we need to get done so that…..you get the idea.

A FEW RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT TRAVELING TO ASIA

1. Travel light; yeah I know people *say* this all the time, but in traveling to Thailand and Bhutan it is doubly true….lugging around stuff you don’t need is definitely a problem on this trip….take only what you need and don’t take what you don’t….so, what do you need?  Not much.

2. Take the basics; basics include a small vial of liquid soap (Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint is my favorite)….having the chance to clean your face is a beautiful luxury…the soap helps.

3. Don’t sweat the details, unless the details include your Passport!  Having traveled with students on many trips, the Passport issue is huge…I cannot tell you how many times someone has “misplaced” that document…lesson here: is it secret? Is it safe?

4. Be open and accepting….that’s always the lesson!

Thailand and Bhutan

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Traveling to Punakha Dzong in March 2010

Thailand and Bhutan are places of contrasts; ancient and modern, past and present flow together in a kind of perfect dance.  In terms of material culture and the structure of the communities, often both past and present live side by side….not really seamlessly, but certainly together.

Our travels to Thailand and Bhutan definitely reflect the challenges both societies face in addressing modern issues like global warming or economic determinism….the questions we will encounter and will certainly inform our trip.

The photo above, of Punakha Dzong was taken traveling in a mini-bus on a small two-lane dirt and gravel road in Wangduphodrang province in Bhutan.  The Dzong stands as it has for more than 500 years sitting between two rivers.  The building itself houses government officials and monks (sometimes one and the same), young folks attending monastic training, and a giant hive of bees living above the front entrance way to the building.

This building, constructed of something very much like adobe and cement mortar, reminded us of churches in New Mexico built during the Spanish period.  The massive walls, thick enough to support the tall sides of the structure, represent the power and authority of the building itself.  The solid, white walls stand out from the hills that surround the structure making a clear distinction between this building and the environment around it.

Welcome

Welcome to a blog about experiences, thoughts, and adventures to the other side of the world!

How do you prepare for a trip to the other side of the world?  Carefully?  Excitedly?  Eagerly? Deliberately?  My guess, based on some experience is that you prepare with proper clothing, essential items, and then let the rest happen as it will.  As Rumi said, “Walk in the busy street and BE the noise.”

Our travels take us to Thailand and Bhutan.  This blog will document and elaborate on the trip, include photos, videos, and a podcast or two.  In addition, we will include posts from all the travelers and check in with their experiences and thoughts about what finds us.

The brief overview of the trip includes days in Bangkok including visits to the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha.  A walk through the old city and a contest related to street food.  Our goal in Bangkok is to experience the noise.  From Bangkok we travel to Bhutan, wandering the streets of Paro and Thimphu, visiting temples and shrines, looking for as many images of Padmasambhava as we can, and meeting folks and sharing ideas.